Overwhelmed at the thought of throwing a cocktail party this season? You don’t have to be. Follow our tips to stay stress-free and stylish all party season long.
Not only do we throw a bunch of parties for our nearest and dearest over the holiday season, our jobs are to do the same for clients. Needless to say, we’ve picked up a tip or two along the way, so here’s our top tips for busy party mavens.
This is a busy time of year, so give guests at least a month’s notice. That means do it now, kids.
Expect that about 25% of invitees won’t be able to make it, so invite more than you need. Also, be open to the idea that friends may really want to make it but already have one or two other engagements, so they may ask if they can drop in for a bit of holiday cheer, but then hit the road again.
If your party has specific end time in mind, make sure you state that in your invitation.
We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again: this is not the time to experiment with a new recipe. If you’re itching to try something new, make a plan to test it out once or twice before party time.
If you plan on taking the role of head chef for this event, we recommend serving dishes that are meant to be cold or room temperature so you’re not locked in the kitchen for the whole party. Easy items like shrimp cocktail, sliders, steak tartar and caramelized onion flatbreads are all popular, easy to throw together (or purchased pre-made) and don’t need to be served hot.
Set up food stations for cheese boards and crudités platters. This will allow guests to graze at their own pace and ensure they’re not hungrily waiting by the kitchen door for the next round of appetizers to be passed.
For parties taking place before or after meal times, prepare about five different items, and estimate two per person of each. For parties happening over a meal period, increase the selection to 10-12 hors d’oeuvres, with up to three pieces per person.
We know you are like a little Martha Stewart in your kitchen and can cook the pants off any chef. But this party may not be the time to prove it as, again, you want to be out and mingling with your friends – not in lock down in the kitchen sweating it out over sausage rolls.
Unless you’ve opted for a pre-platted buffet-style soiree, than having a professional cook on hand may be the most stress-free option for your stylish cocktail party.
When considering a caterer, be clear with your vision and budget. Good caterers will help you get something fabulous, for a fair price. Also, ask what the caterer will bring and what you need to supply.
In all our years of hosting cocktail parties, without a doubt, the Number 1 mistake our clients make when planning parties is skimping on service professionals.
If you are having less than 10 guests at your fête, then you can get away with DIY. However, if this is a large or more formal holiday affair, we strongly recommend hiring a bartender and a server or two. Professional hospitality staff will do everything from taking guests’ coats to keeping the room tidy, plus clean up afterwards. That means all you have to concentrate on is being your flawlessly fabulous (stress-free and stylish!) self.
For cocktail parties with passed hors d’oeuvres, hire one server per 20 guests. If this cocktail party is buffet style, one server per 30 is sufficient.
Renting is so much more cost and time efficient than digging out the crystal stemware you never use, or taking a run to IKEA to stock up on cheap glasses only to store them for the rest of the year.
Best part of renting? No dishes. The rental company takes dirty glasses and flatware back for cleaning.
Estimate one glass per person per hour, and depending on how food is being served, 1-3 plates per person total. And don’t forget to rent extra coat racks and hangers if you don’t have enough closet space.
This is a cocktail party, not a bar, so keep your selection plentiful, but streamlined. Offer one red and one white wine, a sparkling wine, a lighter and darker beer, and one or two spirits, like gin and whiskey with a few mixes. If you’re expecting a lot of abstainers, a virgin cocktail that has a bit of thought put into it is always a nice touch.
Guests typically have two drinks in the first hour and one per hour after that. So for a party that runs from 8pm until midnight, a guest will enjoy five cocktails.
If you’ve decided against a bartender, and will have guests serving themselves, set up a six-foot table for maneuverability, with the following:
Estimate six pours from a bottle of sparkling wine, four from a bottle of wine, and about 22 from a 750 ml bottle of spirits.
Need extra tips on how to be the Host with the Most? Click here for more of our tricks on throwing a great party!